Uncle Bill


          Uncle Bill was my father’s brother and a true hero.  In the early fifties our families had rented a cabin on Lake Vermilion in northern Minnesota.  Just after lunch, someone spotted a bat in our cabin.  As every one was screaming, good ol’ Uncle Bill shoved women and children aside.  He was the first out the door and into the lake, cigar and all.  How could this WWII Vet and Pearl Harbor survivor be so afraid of such a small critter?  We never let him live it down.

          Uncle Bill was mentioned in Walter Lords’ book, “Day of Infamy”.  First published in 1957 and had its ninth printing in 1974 by Holt, Rinehart and Winston.  I am including a hand written letter to me exactly as Uncle Bill wrote it on the last pages of this book.


                                                                          Dec.1, 1975 Napa, California


Dear Dean,

          It was 7:50AM Dec. 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor and I was Machinist Mate second class aboard the U.S.S. Pennsylvania a Battleship, when the Japs attacked. 

          On Sat. night Dec. 6, 1941 I was on the beach where all the Battleships hands were competing for the honor of being the best band in the fleet - It was called the “Battle of the Bands” the Pennsylvania won.  I came back to the ship about 1:30AM Sunday morning.  Sunday morning I was called to defrost the ice machines, being I had only 6 months to do on my 4-year enlistment, I woke up my 6 men to show them how to defrost so I wouldn’t have to do it again.  I was down in #6 fire room or Boiler Room showing the men how to cut in the steam to the ice machines, when all of a sudden general quarters sounded; it was about 10 minutes to 8AM.  We all thought it was a drill until it sounded over and over again, so I said “Let’s go” I went top side and asked “What’s going on” and was told “The Japs are attacking” I laughed and “So are the Germans” because they were at war in Europe.  I almost got socked I went out and saw a torpedo plane coming at us, and man to this day I don’t know how I got to my battle station I was so scared.

          We were it many times but didn’t sink because we were in dry dock, the Japs really wanted to get the Pennsylvania as it was the flagship of the fleet.

          Many were killed and injured, I helped fight fires caused by the bombs, I also carried the dead to the dock, as I had no gun station.

          We lost all our Marines a total of about 50 men.

          I saw Admiral Kimmel come aboard and never have seen a man so devastated looking; “Note” I still don’t and never will believe he was responsible for the awful licking we took that day.

          We were repaired enough to get back to San Francisco and went there for more repairs and new guns and then back to sea and more fighting.


                                                                            Your Uncle Bill


          To write this was a difficult honor for me and I would like to thank every Navy and Marine Vet for being there to defend my right to freedom.

          My dad went right down to the recruiting office and joined the Army Air Corps when he heard what happened to his brother.  Grandma had two stars hanging in her windows in South Minneapolis and she was very proud of her boys.  She had every right to be.  Uncle Bill made a career out of the Navy and he loved the Sea, and his wife, Aunt Edna and his sons Gary and Richard and the grand children.

          Thanks again Uncle Bill.



What To Do?


          “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference.  The Marines don’t have that problem.”  Ronald Reagan


          On Thursday March 13, 2003, I attended a pot luck dinner sponsored by the US Marines at the Hopkins, American Legion Post 320.  In attendance was Marine, Mr. Charles W. Lindbergh.  He is the last surviving member of the crew that raised the first US flag on the Island of Iwo Jima in WWII.  He was holding a flame thrower and covering his comrades in arms by keeping a watchful eye for any foe in the area.  Four hours later that flag was taken down and the, now famous photo and statue, we all know and love, was staged for the news media. 

          I think the biggest thrill and honor for me was to watch my son Nathan sit at the table of honor with Mr. Lindbergh and his wife.  I took pictures of the two men talking about the events that took place during that dreadful time in history.  I believe Nathan was impressed, I know I was.  Nathan had his new, digital battle camo, fatigues on and he looked great.

          Nathan was also happy to rub shoulders with fellow Marines and new recruits.  Also in attendance was Lance Cpl. Ryan L. Pauly, Platoon 2147, Company E. Pauly graduated as company honor man of Company E, he is from Maple Grove, Minnesota.

All of the enlisted men seemed to like Nathan and were always giving him a pat on the back or jolt on the shoulder when they passed by him.  Nathan was also privileged to chat with the Marine Sgt. Major, the top enlisted man there.  He is learning that he is making a difference and how much his uniform means to every one he meets.


Copyright 3-14-2003 by proud father Dean E. Felsing,  USN.




Sea Rations     


          Someday I shall hold a contest and have people vote for the dumbest thing I ever did.  The winner will receive tickets for two to a mini trip to hell with me.  I get to do all the planning and pick the destination.  That should limit the entries to a few million.  People who have been involved in any of my hair-brained schemes will be excluded for obvious reasons.

          This one came to Ed and me in high school.  On Saturdays we would take the bus downtown and wear out our welcome all over the place.  One of these places was the Army/Navy surplus store.  Most of our earthly possessions came from this Tiffanies of trash.  We had old sleeping bags, mess kits, canteens, tents, Navy storm masks, disabled grenades, and one very old Army bugle.  On this visit we found some surplus sea rations.  We came up with a great idea.  Wouldn’t it be fun to buy a few of these tasty leftovers from WWII and live on them for an entire week?  Just think of the money that we would save if we learned how to eat this stuff and in our golden years we could spend that money on a brand new boat.  We made our purchase.  The total came to about one dollar each, or about fourteen cents per day.  That came to less than a nickel per meal. 

          Each kit contained crackers, vitamin pills, malt tablets, salt tablets, candy, peanut butter, canned meat, canned biscuits, lots of powered things and salt and pepper and sugar.  All of these things were stale but that did not matter to us we were tough.

          When we got home the first thing we did was toss out the malt tabs, crackers, coffee, and anything that looked like a pill.  That did not leave much.  We divided everything into seven piles and ate our first meal.  After diner Ed took his share home and I stashed mine in my room.  On his way home Ed ate all of his candy and was sick by the time he arrived there.  The next day in school we both ended up in the nurses’ station with stomachaches.  When we were asked what was the matter we told the nurse that it must have been something from the school cafeteria.  Even though we were sick we felt better when the nurse and the kitchen staff tore the place apart trying to solve the mystery.  We thought of doing it again when we saw the commotion we caused.  Alas we had eaten most of the rations in the first two days and we wouldn’t be hungry for a few more.